Less than a year after selling his telecommunications startup, Flowroute founder Sean Hsieh has embarked on a new venture that aims to open up the world of commercial real estate investing.
Concreit is a soon-to-be-launched Seattle startup that will give investors the ability to invest in private buildings for as little as one dollar.
“When I talk to my friends about owning a building, they just stop and go, ‘I don’t even know what to think about that, because I can’t connect with that thought,’” Hsieh said. “We’re trying to bring deals that only millionaires have access to and give them to an everyday investor for very small dollar minimum.”
Concreit has raised nearly $1 million in funding from Unlock Venture Partners, a new Seattle-based firm co-led by longtime angel investor Andy Liu. Other Unlock portfolio companies include Crowd Cow, Make.TV and Possible Finance.
The idea for Concreit was inspired by Hsieh’s own finances. “After selling Flowroute, I started to figure out how to diversify my portfolio,” said Hsieh. “And private commercial real estate became really interesting to me.” Hsieh sold Flowroute to West Corporation last year for an undisclosed sum.
Hsieh plans to use blockchain technology for certain aspects of Concreit, which could enable the startup to tokenize its position in certain investments. Concreit will be a mobile-first application with game-like elements geared toward millennial investors.
Concreit will initially give access to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), an asset class in which real estate is bundled into easily tradable securities. Fundrise, a popular real estate investing platform, uses the REIT structure for many of its assets.
Federal regulations limit the access that ordinary investors have to commercial real estate, especially smaller scale projects. Concreit is exploring how different regulatory structures might be used to open up commercial real estate investing to more people.
Hsieh said he believes that allowing non-accredited investors to participate “is really how we’re going to change this landscape.”
A man of many talents, Hsieh was a hip-hop dancer in the first generation of Kinjaz — a group that was featured on MTV’s “Best Dance Crew” — and he also danced with professional teams Funkanometry LA and Mavyn.